4 Poems by Jessica Lanay

Queer Friends

Your scaly knuckle springs a quarter
Into the ketchup on my plate,
You are the kind of man who chases his own tail,
Out of vanity,
Your smile attracts the noise in the room,
You are a good friend,
Attracted to me by my inability to commit
Until I have to,
This way,
I never know what I really want,
You are always promising me that you are not gay,
In front of your boyfriend,
He talks about all the time – he beams,
Who you want to fuck,
And the Darwinian desire to reproduce,
Are often confused,
I remind you that in Russia
They are McCarthying the queers,
You remind me that you can’t 
achieve creation of the fittest –
With your boyfriend,
You  put your head on my shoulder,
Tell me my writing has bad transitions,
I tell you that your plays are like fake tiffany lamps,
But everyone wants one because
It reminds them
Of what they hoped to could
Have had,


It is only Wednesday,
Light suspended like still water in this 
You smirk and ask me if I’ve tried the 
apple pie, I have,
I haven’t,
As we tune into the murmur
We realize
People don’t have conversations 
Their words are bundled up in
What already happened,
What they will do,
Never this second,
But who wants to be cognizant of that 

You are a good friend,
You remind me that I am allowed
To do things,
Like wear lipstick,
Like look feminine for once,
I am grateful to have at least one black 
friend who won’t get all neo-african-soul 
on me about every-fucking-thing,

We connect because we share starvation,
And pile our memories we don’t want 
For barn fires,
For smoke signals,

Looking for each other’s approvals
In the next piece,
We are each other’s standard of 
We want to live up to.


the sun is a burning 
coin in my palm that I would spend to take the fastest train
to reach the platform where your shadow was,
i could walk and thirst, moon-shot 
night, through deserts, to imagine the same oasis 
you imagined,

you scoop cracked 
diamonds from my thighs,
leaving me defenseless in the 
bathwater, i strain 
into the blackness of your pupils, wondering if you can 
smell the veil of 
crude frenzy
that lies over me, i pull

at my soft, tight, smoky
hair; you scratch carnival 
confetti from my back,
ask me about Santeria, why Oshun loved Shango,
And I hope you are not talking up our future together,

you whisper that you would scale and throw 
yourself from mountains for my love, i tell you: 
take a long leap off of a short building.
you say: you would fly like a bird.
not all birds have wings to fly; to keep balance,
they run away.

i touch your hair and wish it was 
longer so I could wrap myself up in its 

you soap around my breasts,
retiring me of the gilded pieces i stole from the jewelry box
of my mother, my abuela.

you touch the gilded beads on my neck,
i wonder if you are reading my mind as you count my toes.

She, Who Raised ME

My blood
Does not believe
In goodbyes,
Its memory is
Too many
Of being put

She lost her mind,
In pints,
Like blood,
Her recollections
Seeped like fog,
I am here to
Tell it,
I inhaled it,
To buy time,

The day she did not
Remember me,
The doctor said,
Cysts are in
Your uterus,
I felt erased,
But she had said,
That half-spirit children,
Don’t reproduce,


She sits rocking,
Clucking her throat,
In the corners
Of all the rooms
In which I’ve lived,

I make people
Take off their shoes,
When entering,
-       I know she is there
-       She requires it

When my lover,
Presses my face
To the floor,
I am proud,
I love hard,
It was the talisman,
She left behind,

To make me forget.

Swing Home

Your body
Black and thick
Cracking like flamingo wings
Down the long hall,
Blood bolting
From mouth
And nose,
Hands up in surrender
Towards the side of the bed
Where I know
You keep the aluminum
Louisville Slugger,
He charges behind you
A summer storm cloud
Just before he can
Fist your mouth
With his hands
Callous as gravel
You swing home,
The sound
Of the hell tap
The bat gives
Is flat,


Suddenly you are – oceanic,
A murder of waves sweeping inward,
I run inside like rainwater spattering over a sill,
Bare feet crossing from wood to tile,
I will rescue you,
If I can avoid the radius of your swings,
I can love you past this,
You graze me,
Like an audience of birds alighting about me,
I scream,
You awaken – eyes white with shock,
Quivering with the treble of a pigeon’s coo,
You implode around me,
Swarm me,
Swell me with kisses,
He has gone,
Like a sheet off a line,
Fluttering away,
Abandoning us
Is the best
He could ever do
After grinding us down
Like salt crystals.


All Gone

it was hot.
Thanksgiving was
      How many days away
      I could not recall in that time

they had given me
this pill

it was supposed to

the doctor
had to administer
the first

my cramps
on the
city bus,

it was
you being

i had
no place
to go

the friend
whose couch
i lived on
said she
come help me

i cried
for three days

blood in me
like dried
red clay,
in my stomach,

she had
her husband
tell me to

despite what you know
isn’t for

it was so hot.
i went back.
same bus,
the nurse
scanned my
smiled and said,
all gone. 


Jessica is first a poet and then a prose writer and the former permeates and colors all other writing that she does. Her work seeks to illuminate the unmanageable moments people have with themselves, especially those moments experienced by Black and Brown women. She was a finalist in 2007 and 2008 in the Georgia Writers Festival held at Agnes Scott College and currently work for Poets & Writers.